The reality is finally beginning to set in for the NHL’s youngest and brightest stars. During their childhood years, many of them collected hockey cards. They’d pick them up at convenience stores or trade them among friends and all of them had a favourite.
On Tuesday, a new crop of potential NHL rookies were on hand at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens to pose for their own Upper Deck hockey cards.
“Of course I collected trading cards, I think every kid did,” said Connor McDavid, the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in June. “It’s really special to be on one now.”
Earlier, Jack Eichel, who was selected one spot after McDavid by the Buffalo Sabres, signed an exclusive multi-year trading card deal with Leaf. No terms of the deal -- which includes cards, autographs and memorabilia – were released, but Leaf CEO Brian Gray called it “easily the most lucrative autograph trading deal for any rookie in the history of the sport.”
“You dream of this happening and then everything starts to fall into place,” said Eichel of his new endorsement. “You realize it’s more of a reality… people pay you for your autograph and it’s pretty neat.”
It’s been a while, but Warren Rychel is finally looking forward to a Windsor Spitfires season with more than just cautious optimism.
“You can probably tell I’m excited,” said the general manager. “More than I have been in the past few years. I think we’re a little deeper and we’ve made some changes.”
A big part of that excitement came on Monday morning, when the team announced the signing of American forward Christian Fischer. The 18-year-old was a second round pick – 32 nd overall – of the Arizona Coyotes at the June NHL entry draft. He spent last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad, where he scored 31 goals and 33 assists in 66 games. The native of Wayne, Ill., had been committed to the hockey program at Notre Dame, but after recently signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Coyotes, his NCAA eligibility was quashed.
“He’s a real smart, hard working player,” said Rychel of Fischer. “He’s good in the corners, good on the wall, plays a complete game and he can play in every situation: power play, penalty kill and even strength.”
Rychel admits the penalty has taken – and continues to take - a toll on his team.
Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 5 mths ago
Before Rudi Ying had even hit his teenage years, a meeting was arranged for him at a Chicago hotel room. He was 11 years old.
There, he would get the opportunity to sit and talk with Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming, who already had achieved superstar status as one of China's most revered athletes.
Ying had left China for the U.S. two years earlier in order to follow his hockey dream.
He might not have realized it at the time, but that meeting with the NBA star would leave a lasting impression.
“That was an experience,” said the now 17-year-old of his tête-à-tête with Ming. “He did for basketball basically what we would like to do for hockey – to completely open up the sport to China.
“Even though he doesn’t play the same sport, I certainly see him as a role model in terms of opening up the sport to China.”
This week at St. Michael’s College School Arena, Ying and fellow Chinese under-18 teammate Wei Zhong have been participating at the BioSteel hockey camp in Toronto, which includes Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Mike Cammalleri, Wayne Simmonds and other NHLers.
For Ying, it’s par for the course.
Now, Ying is hoping he can do the same for sports in China through hockey.
Their latest in cultural appropriation comes in the form of an ill-guided marketing campaign which features three players: captain Anthony Beauvillier, Alexis D’Aoust and Samuel Girard – none of whom identify as First Nations - dressed up in the stereotypical warrior motif complete with war paint and braided hair with beads and feathers in team colours.
It’s stunning to think someone with the Quebec league team thought this was a good idea.
The slogan for the campaign is the equally tone deaf: “My History. My Colours”
Former Halifax Mooseheads captain Trey Lewis, a Mi'kmaq from the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, can’t understand how anyone with the team thought this would be a positive marketing tool. He said it might have been different if the players were themselves First Nations or if the team was on or, at very least, associated with one of the reserves in the area.
“It’s disrespectful,” Lewis said. “To be marketing a team with First Nations imagery, I think they could have come up with a better idea to help promote their hockey team.
“They’re not First Nations so, to be honest with you, I don’t know why they’re using it.”
Sunaya Sapurji at Eh Game 6 mths ago
Coming into the 2015 Pan Am Games, Andre De Grasse was hardly a household name for many Canadians. In fact many weren’t even sure how to correctly say his name.
“A lot of people before this didn’t know how to pronounce my last name, they used to say De Grassi, but now I think everybody knows my name is (pronounced De Grass),” said De Grasse. “It feels really good that people know my name and I’m making an impact in the track and field world.”
That would be an understatement.
On Friday, De Grasse won his second gold medal of the Pan Am Games with a stunning victory in the men’s 200-metre. He finished with a time of 19.88, setting a Pan Am and Canadian record in the process. The 20-year-old also became the first Canadian to run the 200-metres with a sub-20 second time.
“It feels amazing,” said De Grasse after the race. “The first Canadian to run under sub-20 seconds, it doesn’t get any better than this. It just feels like an unreal moment right now.”
At first, he wasn’t even sure he had won the race since it was a tight finish with Jamaica’s Rasheed Dwyer (19.90), who won silver, and Panama’s Edward Alonzo, who claimed the bronze.
Sunaya Sapurji at Eh Game 6 mths ago
“Before my first decathlon I had big dreams,” said the 25-year-old. “I thought I was going to be a world record holder from the start, but I kind of learned about patience and I continue to teach myself about patience and let things come where they may and do my best.”
On Thursday, Warner made history when he broke the 19-year-old Canadian points record set by Michael Smith ( 8,626) back in 1996. He finished with 8,653 and set a new Pan Am record in the process.
“I knew I wanted the Canadian record so bad,” said Warner. “I didn’t think there was a better place to have it here at home.”
It was at the old track and field centre on the grounds of York University that Warner competed in his first ever competition. So it was a sort of homecoming for the London, Ont., native.
“It’s kind of come full circle and I’m so grateful of it,” said Warner.
Heading into the final event – the men’s 1,500-meters – Warner needed to finish with a time below 4.29, which would match his personal best. He finished with a time of 4:24.73.
Prior to the race, he spoke to Kurt Felix – the eventual silver medallist – about the kind of pace they wanted to set for their run.
When Dan Devlin stepped on the court for Canada’s inaugural match against Brazil, it marked the third time he had worn the Maple Leaf in the sport of handball at the Pan Am Games.
It also marked the third time he had to pay his own way to get there.
Such is life for athletes in niche sports trying to make headway in Canada, where the biggest challenge is often not on the field of play, but in trying to find funding.
Devlin, like many of his handball teammates male and female, has been forced to crowdfund in order to represent Canada internationally.
“A lot of us crowdfunded to be here which was fantastic because it eased a lot of the stress we had to do for work,” said the 31-year-old medical school student.“Typically when we’re at home we’re working, trying to live our lives, but we’re also working trying to have money available so we can continue to play handball. That’s one of the hardest things.”
Having money for handball means paying for things like plane tickets and ancillary travel costs, gym time, physiotherapy and other expenses which come out of their own pockets.
“The reason why we still do it? Like most of the guys on our team, we love to play the game.”
Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 7 mths ago
It was back in 1956 that Don Cameron made his first life-changing decision. He was just out of high school in his native Summerside, PEI, and he had to make the choice to either go to university or take a job in radio.
“It was my life-long ambition to get into broadcasting and do play-by-play for hockey,” said the 79-year-old. “I used to do it as a kid playing road hockey, I say, ‘I’m not going to play anymore, I’m going to broadcast the game.’ Then I’d sit up on a fence and broadcast the game.”
It’s no surprise: He took the radio job.
He parlayed that gig calling games for the Summerside Aces – in the local senior league – into a job in St. Catharines, Ont., doing play-by-play for the Jr. A Teepees. That, too, was a big decision considering Cameron had spent his whole life on the Island.
“Boy, were my eyes ever opened when that plane landed in Toronto,” said Cameron. “I took my first drive on a four-lane highway.”
From there he moved to Kitchener, broadcasting games for the Dutchmen before becoming the play-by-play voice of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers when the city first landed the team in 1963.
The one thing he’ll miss the most? His interactions with the players.